First lady Michelle Obama on Thursday delivered a stinging takedown of Donald Trump’s vulgar and sexist comments and spoke about the impact they were having on women everywhere.
Campaigning for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, she said that she couldn’t stop thinking about remarks Trump made in 2005, when he bragged about making unwanted sexual advances and being able to grab women “by the pussy.” The first lady said those words had “shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.”
With her voice shaking at times, Obama said Trump’s comments made it impossible for her to give her normal stump speech. It “would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream,” she said. “This is not something that we can ignore. It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season.”
“This wasn’t just locker room banter,” she continued. “This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior and actually bragging about kissing and groping women.”
The first lady said she’d felt the impact of Trump’s words personally, as had other women.
“The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman,” she said. “It is cruel. It is frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts.”
“It’s like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin,” she continued. “It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them or forced himself on them and they’ve said no, but he didn’t listen.”
“The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. It is cruel. It is frightening. And the truth is, it hurts.”
Obama has been a remarkable surrogate for Clinton on the campaign trail. She also gave an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention in July that described the dangers of a Trump presidency for America’s children. The speech was widely hailed as one of the best of the convention.
As Trump has tried to undermine the credibility of several women who have come forward this week to accuse him of groping them, the first lady said a fear of not being believed was one of the reasons so many women failed to speak up about sexual harassment and abuse.
“All of us are doing what women have always done, just trying to keep our heads above water, just trying to get through it. Trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us. Maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak,” she said.
“Maybe we’re afraid to be that vulnerable. Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to swallowing our emotions and staying quiet because we’ve seen that people often won’t take our word over his.”
Trump’s comments, she said, weren’t just insulting to women, but to men as well.
“To dismiss this as every day locker room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere. The men that you and I know don’t treat women this way. They are loving fathers who are sickened by the thought of their daughters being exposed to this kind of vicious language about women. They are husbands and brothers and sons who don’t tolerate women being demeaned and disrespected.”
Obama shared the story of a six-year-old who told his parents that he knew Clinton would win the election after hearing that Trump called someone a “piggy.”
“Even a six-year-old knows better,” she said. “A six-year-old knows this is not how adults behave. This is not how decent human beings behave. And this is certainly not how someone who wants to be president of the United States behaves.”
Regardless of party, Obama added, every American should find Trump’s behavior reprehensible.
“This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful, it is intolerable. And it doesn’t matter what party you belong to. Democrat, Republican or independent, no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.”
Clinton thanked Obama for her speech in a personally signed tweet on Thursday.
Bill Clinton also had high praise for Obama’s speech, calling it the “best speech given in this campaign by anybody.”
Watch the full speech below:
This story has been updated with a tweet from Hillary Clinton as well as Bill Clinton’s reaction.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.